Who Stole Our Thunder?

Bill's Blog

It’s now been more than a month since we saw a flash of lightning or heard a clap of thunder in Grand Rapids. It’s the longest stretch in spring without a thunderstorm that I can remember. Some people love to watch storms, while others dread them. I have a daughter that runs an animal rescue and some of the dogs get upset with loud noises (thunder, nearby fireworks on the Fourth of July).

It’s not just in West Michigan. The tornado count is down nationally this year. So far this year, the Storm Prediction Center has logged 579 tornadoes. This compares with 1,075 thru June 2 last year and 1,517 through June 2 in 2019. The map above shows where these tornadoes have occurred. Michigan has had just one, the tiny twister April 10 south of Cutlerville. There have been no tornadoes in Ohio, indiana or Wisconsin. Part of this is due to the drought, the dry pattern over the Great Lakes and part is due to the lack of ingredients coming together to form storms. We’ve had more light showers. Rain yesterday evening missed most of West Michigan. Kalamazoo had just a trace of rain, Mendon 0.10″, Coldwater 0.35″Jackson had 0.76″ and Flint had 0.71″. Rainfall was only 30% of average in May along the I-94 corridor (Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek. The Kalamazoo River at Comstock is running at only 56% of average flow.

Tornado count so far in 2021

As you can see in the graph above, the national tornado count this year (red line) is well below average number (black line – but not a record low number.

Probability of Severe Weather in the U.S. on June 3

The map above shows the probability of severe weather in the U.S. on June 3. The greatest chance of severe storms is in the Plains states, with a smaller secondary peak in the Carolinas. You can see the odds of severe weather in Michigan increase as you go south toward the IN/OH border. The greatest threat in summer is wind damage. Michigan does average 16 tornadoes per year.

While we’re missing the severe storms, we will see the heat. Both April and May were a touch cooler than average. June will be warmer than average. The first half of June will see above average temperatures and we may fall back to near average for the 2nd half of the month.

We do expect thunderstorms this summer. As the often present heat bubble builds in the Plains, passing fronts (though weaker in summer) and upper level disturbances will provide mostly brief passing showers and storms. In the meantime, the below average rainfall trend continues into early next week.

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